Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Haunted Running Machine

Yesterday's run wasn't brilliant, and today I had to do 6 miles, so I stayed late at the office and then rushed back to the hotel, where instead of preparing for a run, read Amazon's API documentation. That's right, to relax after a hard day of wrestling with data, I read about protocols for requesting XML and parsing it using perl. You can't say I don't know how to enjoy myself.

I went down to the gym, remembering to take a towel with me this time (although they only supply bath towels in the room, not hand towels, so I looked a bit of a loon with this enormous sheet of cotton in my hand), and found the place empty. I hopped on the treadmill, put it on for 48 minutes, and started running.

Surprisingly, after a night where I failed to sleep until after 1 in the morning, and a day where I sat still for nine hours, only getting up to gorge on free French fries, I actually ran better than yesterday. As I chugged along at a steady 11 km/h, I felt fine, instead of feeling like I was about to keel over and die. Or throw up over the glass window to the swimming pool.

In fact, when I read my Garmin, which with that wonderful accelerometer in my shoe is able to calculate pace, it turned out the treadmill was miscalibrated, or my high-tech training tool is, because I was running five minute kilometres. I've already complained about the duplicitous, dishonest ways of running machines before, so I was happy to trust my Garmin instead.

My mistrust of the running machine grew stronger at about 35 minutes in; I was going great, getting ready for the last two miles, when without warning the treadmill told me I had a heart rate of 190 bpm, and then went into cool down mode. I thumped at it and played with the controls, but to no avail: it wanted me to do 3km/h on the flat, and my choice was irrelevant.

I stopped it, started it again at 12 km/h. It was ok for a minute, then went back to cool down. All these manner of simple, intuitive user interfaces mean little when the dratted thing can't reliably give you a 12 km-per-hour road to run on. I had another go at it, tricked it into thinking I wanted to run for 2 hours, and then floored it for my last half mile: 9.76 km in 50 minutes and 32 seconds, which would be a lamentable 10k time for me if I was in a race, but just about acceptable as a mid-week tune up a few weeks before the marathon.

The marathon is in Osaka, so it was appropriate that after a day festering, yesterday's running kit makes the room smell of cheap Japanese food. It hadn't dried much, so I turned the fan on the air con to full blast and hoped that would dry things out, then went downstairs to eat a pizza at the restaurant. (The restaurant that I upbraided people for frequenting last night on Tripadvisor, on the basis you should seek out a more authentic Singaporean experience than a pizza. Hypocritical? Misguided? Pretentious? Hungry? Whatever.)

Figuring that might set me two steps back for one step forward, I ordered pasta instead, the fettucine being the only thing on the menu not named after a pop music icon. Which was confusing: why name a pizza after Alannis Morissette, note on the menu that she's vegan, and then include mozzarella as a topping? The drinks were musically themed too (and the drinks menu was pasted onto a 12" record they'd ruined specially for this purpose) but as some exercise in the Theatre of the Absurd, this musicallyy-themed restaurant was funereally silent. Yes, there was a stereo by the doorway, with a big stack of records, but it remained off the whole time I was in there.

When I started to think the air conditioner was singing at me, I knew it was time to clear off.


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